I Tried 8 Popular Japanese Snack Foods, And This Is What They Really Taste Like
I would never use the word foodie (because that word is awful) but I do consider myself "someone who enjoys trying new foods that have the potential to either gross me out, or become my new favorite." To bring these two potential outcomes together—and have a good excuse to stuff myself full of snack foods—I headed down to my neighborhood Japanese market and asked the clerk to recommend some of his favorite munchies (focusing on a selection that would give a nice cross-section of Japanese snack options). He recommended a basket's worth of crackers, candies, and assorted goodies to take with me.
I walked away packing everything from skinny strips of fish jerky to vanilla-flavored wafery combos. The spoils of my shopping trip are laid out below, as are my honest reviews (and rankings, on a scale of 1-to-10) for how delicious they are. Spoiler alert: Get yourself to a Japanese market and get yourself some of those goddamn cheesy rice crackers.
As one might guess by looking at the package, these are sort of like flaky Combos filled with sweet, vanilla-y cream. Very easy to eat; I wanted to mindlessly finish the whole bag while typing. Light, airy, puffy. Kind of lacking in flavor to some degree, and you’re left wondering when you are going to actually start tasting them. I admit I was most excited about these (and hence, attacked them first) so I don’t know if my high expectations are leading me to my disappointment, but either way, these left me wanting something much more. I would be interested in trying them in different flavors, though, because the texture was on-point.
BROWN SUGAR WHEAT BISCUITS
Okay, first off, these things are INSANELY HUGE. I anticipated them being Cheeto-sized at the biggest, and they are the size of at least two fingers. This size, combined with their overall coloration and shape leaves them looking not entirely unlike desiccated poops. So things are not off to a good start.
And the taste: Holy shit. I don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum here, but they taste like slightly burnt sugar with an oddly sticky, chewy quality that makes it feel like it was scraped off the bottom of a caramel pan. An overall weird flavor, and a deeply unpleasant visual aspect.
ROUND CHEESE CRACKERS
These are very strange—in a good way. Like nothing I’ve ever eaten in the Western Snack World, they have the general look of a Ritz Bitz, but are made from slightly sweet, crunchy rice crackers filled with a sharp cheddar cheese filling. The cheese is awesome—salty, garlicky, strong—and the crackers being sweet, though initially sort of disarming, makes for a really nice contrast. Loved these, could easily eat the whole package.
Again with not wanting to poo-poo someone's yay-yay, but I have to assume these are an acquired taste if there ever was one. They literally smell so strongly of fish food that I had to take them outside to photograph and taste them (as you can see from the pictures), and even then it smelled strongly enough that the other people on the balcony made a comment about it. It’s just…the saltiest, fishiest, gamiest thing you’ve ever tasted, and so powerfully smelly that I imagine you cannot eat it anywhere outside of some special Fish Jerky Bunker you’ve had installed in your basement. No, thank you.
It’s a white-and-dark chocolate tab with an espresso-flavored jelly center. Straightforward, delicious—we should definitely have them here. They’d be perfect with the check after a big meal.
TIOVITA ENERGY DRINK
This drink (made by a company with the word “pharmacy” ominously in its name) is significant for having almost the exact same flavor profile as a bunch of crushed-up Flinstones vitamins (particularly the grape ones). It’s like a more syrupy, concentrated Red Bull, which makes sense given its size, and honestly could be much worse. The bottle seems to be intentionally made to look medicinal, and there is a strongly cough syrupy quality to the whole thing, but overall it could be much worse. Not being a fan of energy drinks in general, I liked this well enough.
GREEN TEA SANDWICH CRACKERS
These are almost literally Ritz Bitz, except sweeter, and filled with a green tea cream instead of cheese or peanut butter. They’re a perfectly yummy, totally inoffensive snack that would be perfect for consuming while watching TV or reading. Not too sweet, not too greasy, just nice and light and yummy. (Only possible downside is that they smell REALLY strongly of matcha when you open the bag, which might be unappealing to some. But whatever, forget them, matcha is delicious.)
RED BEAN MOCHI BALL
I’m into mochi to an extent, but I have to be honest here and say that this was just way the hell too much mochi in one sitting. It’s like biting into a giant pillow full of flour and red beans. Both of which I enjoy in measured doses (like in ice cream ball form, for example) but in this case, both flavors were just too much, all at once. If you really love yourself some goddamn mochi, get this. Otherwise, stick to a more moderate format for your rice cake needs.
Verdict: Get those effing cheese crackers, try a coffee jelly, and stay the hell away from the giant brown sugar Cheeto-like sticks.
Images: Chelsea Fagan(12)